If you are new to it, travelling alone later in life can seem daunting, but in many ways the benefits of travelling as a ‘senior solo’ are even greater. After a lifetime of responsibility for others, having only yourself to please can be wonderfully liberating.
Luckily, with a little planning, you can mitigate the downside of solo travel. Here are a few tips to make the most of your solo holiday.
Consider an organised tour
Not confident about going it alone? Drawn to a destination but feel it’s too hard? Organised tours allow you to relax and enjoy the ride. Hotels, transport, tours and flights can all be organised for you. A tour allows you to meet new people with the same interests as you.
Somewhere close to home like Asia may be an option; whether you’re venturing to the region for the first time or are a return visitor. With groups averaging only 12 travellers and made up of couples, friends and singles, you don’t need to feel the odd one out.
There are companies that specialise only in single travellers, you can get the best of both worlds by joining a solo traveller-friendly tour group. You’ll have the freedom to spread your wings and also enjoy the company of like-minded travellers to share the experience with.
Start with city breaks
If the idea of group travel fills you with dread, consider easing yourself in with a city break. Easy to organise and affordable, spending a few days alone in an unfamiliar city is a perfect way to prove that you can be content in your own company.
Tick off those museums and galleries you’ve always wanted to see, indulge in local cuisine and culture, watch the world go by from pavement cafés and, most importantly, allow time to just wander and follow your instincts.
On the road for one
For those who enjoy jumping in their motorhome alone, whenever the fancy takes them, the chance to catch up and meet other travellers along the way can be appealing. Or meet other travellers who perhaps want to hit the road but don’t want to go it alone. Consider joining the Solo Traveller Network as part of the Campervan & Motorhome Club of Australia.
Find accommodation that is right for you
Will you miss being around people? Or are you really looking to get away from everything?
If you’re keen for alone time, you should look for hotels and retreats that offer privacy.
If you want to meet people along the way, consider hostels and AirBnb rooms. Most hostels offer private rooms and the chance to interact with other guests in common areas. You’ll automatically have something in common as you are all exploring the same town.
AirBnb rooms give you the opportunity to stay with locals in their houses. You can ask them for local tips and really delve into the city in a more authentic way.
If you are looking for a longer stay why not consider renting a house or apartment or even swap houses. Home exchange organisations offer you the chance to stay in locals’ homes for a minimal courtesy fee and learn about your destination from those who live there.
Book day tours end experiences
A great to meet new people and interact whilst you are on holiday is book tours. Try a French class in Paris, a street art walk in Berlin or a cooking class is Bangkok. No matter what your interest, you can find someone around the world who shares it.
Don’t worry about making a good impression
The best thing about solo travel is that you can be yourself. Don’t worry about what people think of you. You most likely won’t see them again. Relax, be yourself.
It’s easy to get single tickets at the last minute for shows when you only need one seat. Sometimes you can scoop tickets at a huge discount. Try asking at the box office on the night, you’ll be surprised.
Pursue your interests
Special interest travel is on the rise, and it gives you the perfect opportunity to pick up that long-dreamed about post-retirement hobby. Want to work on your painting skills with a master artist in Venice, or take a culinary course in Mexico? Maybe you’re interested in a yoga retreat or an advanced scuba diving course. Educational travel is as diverse as your own interests. It’s also a great way to meet people with similar hobbies and goals.
Take advantage of technology
If you are feeling lonely, use technology to connect with people back home. Skype, Facebook chat and What’sApp allow you to do voice and video calls over WiFi. Install them on your phone before you go.
Thanks to the growing demand from solo travellers, many cruise lines, including P&O and Royal Carribean, now offer single rooms. Cunard even has gentlemen dance hosts ready to lead single ladies on the dance floor.
If you are after an active adventure, there are hiking trips and biking tours that can be incredibly rewarding and showcase a different side to a destination. These are great for solo travellers, as there is a shared sense of comradery as you conquer each stretch of your journey. These are run as small group tours with an average of 10 kindred spirits, so it is a great setting to form strong bonds and share incredible experiences with new friends. Most of these trips are also made up of approximately half solos, so you won’t feel alone.
Active tours require a considerable level of fitness and some rely solely on your endurance to get you from place to place. Others only do a few strenuous activities on the tour, and some are more moderate. Trips generally have a physical rating in the trip notes to take into consideration along with the day to day itinerary when choosing your holiday.
Travelling alone allows you to spend as long or as little in a destination as you want. Remove any travel time restrictions and you will enjoy your holiday more. One of the advantages of solo travel is that you are more likely to be able to snag that last seat on the plane or train. You’re also more likely to be upgraded.
Ask for help
If you’re unsure of yourself, ask for help. You’re more likely to attract trouble if you are standing around looking dazed. Smile, be friendly and confident and you’ll find most people are willing to help. Sometimes it’s the strangers that you meet on the road that have the most impact.
Log your travel plans
Travelling alone can be perfectly safe but you may wish to consider a few extra safeguards. Find out the most up-to-date information on the areas to which you plan to travel, tips for those travelling alone and log your travel plans just in case you come across some difficulties on your trip.
Play it safe
Safety is paramount for us all but understandably you may feel more anxious travelling alone. Aside from the obvious precautions of keeping money out of reach and not flaunting valuables, you are old enough and wise enough to trust your gut.
If you ever feel unsafe for any reason, forget being polite, be sure to verbalise your concerns, loudly if necessary, to whoever will listen. Better to overreact than say nothing.
Give your journey added purpose
No matter how glamorous or exotic a trip sounds on paper, the truth is sometimes travelling can be a little tedious – delayed flights, missed connections. Use these times to get busy noting down your thoughts – it could be in diary form or perhaps write reviews of your experiences and contribute to sites like Tripadvisor.
You could even create your own travel blog. Not only is it a fantastic way to revisit your experience long after its over but the process of creating it is a wonderful distraction.
Exercise selfie control
We’re not sure they were ever ‘in’ for seniors but selfies are so over. Be in the moment, enjoy the experience and create lasting memories. If you want a photo with you in it, ask someone else to take it – chances are it will be a better shot and can be all the excuse you need to start an interesting conversation.
Carriage of luggage
Travelling with a lot of luggage can be challenging and packing light is important so that you are not stuck heaving around a huge suitcase, particularly if you have mobility concerns that make this challenging. If you have difficulty carrying your luggage or are likely to pack more than you can comfortably carry, then book a tour with porterage included or consider a cruise where you only have to unpack once and need not worry about your bag at all on the journey.
Travelling with medication
If you need to travel with prescription medication, then ensure you have enough to last you for the duration your holiday. It can be difficult and time consuming to get scripts filled overseas, so where possible, it is advisable have enough stock with you when you head off on holidays. In saying that, some countries do limit the quantity of certain medications or restrict the entry of certain drugs, so it is always important to check the travel advice and relevant embassy guidelines prior to travel to ensure your medicine is legal there. When travelling with medication it is always advisable to keep it in its original packaging and have an accompanying letter from your doctor.
Whether you have pre-existing medical conditions or are as fit as a fiddle, it is important to book travel insurance for your holiday.
I’m ready – now what?
There are plenty of mature solo travellers jet setting off and adding more stamps to their passports! So why not join them? With an abundance of touring, rail, overland, hiking, bike, or river cruising tours, the world is your oyster.
Some travel to satisfy a curiosity, to tick off a bucket list, to explore their interests independently, to heal, to grow, to discover, to relive, to experience something new, and sometimes to find themselves all over again in a new stage of life. No matter your situation, you are not alone. Even if you are travelling solo.